Southern Traditions And Ham Salad {The Kitchen Reader}

I remember the first time I saw Paula Deen on television doing the show Ready…Set…Cook! on The Food Network.  She was just so hilarious, and she looked like my aunt and had the personality of my college roommate.  It was like a (crazy) member of my family was right there on the t.v.

Soon afterward, she began starring in her own show, frying chicken and baking cakes and cooking up all kinds of good Southern food.  I was so glad to see the food I grew up with being given the attention it deserved, in a time when, as Paula states, “health-food diet mania” was consuming America.

The rest is history, and Paula Deen is now a household name.  In her autobiography, It Ain’t All About the Cookin’, however, Paula proves that everybody seems normal until you get to know them.  I guess I just assumed that she was always a success, but she reveals in her book how she spent many years of her life just struggling to make it through the day.

Growing up in Georgia, Paula says she had an idyllic childhood, with her family, grandparents, aunts and uncles all close together running a resort.  Her teen years were spent being cute, having fun, and cheering.  But at eighteen she met a boy she couldn’t resist, and wanted nothing more than to get married and be a wife and mother.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Paula to realize that marriage wasn’t all smooth sailing all the time, and she began struggling with the fact that she couldn’t make it all better.  As is often the case, I think, being sheltered and loved by her family, and possessing the gift of “Southern charm”, that niceness that girls in the South are brought up with, caused an inner struggle for Paula.  She felt that “if being protected and cherished by my parents was being spoiled, then I guess I was.”

Then as a result of tragically loosing both her parents within four years of each other, while Paula was still in her early twenties she really began to struggle to keep her sanity.  Suffering from panic attacks and agoraphobia while raising two small children tested her every day, until she finally discovered what exactly she suffered from and began to slowly overcome it,  and eventually end her marriage.

As a single mother Paula returned to what she knew best, good Southern food.  Beginning with a catering company and expanding to a full restaurant, she kept up the traditions of the South.  She knew that “the South is all about tradition, and most of those traditions have their origins in the cooking pots and the recipes we pass down from generation to generation” and that “Southern cooking is nothing but Southern – we don’t fly in our ingredients or menus from distant parts of the world. What’s in our pots and on our plates is all home-grown.”  And keeping true to this philosophy has meant nothing but success for Paula Deen.

This book is full of Southern charm and wit, and had me laughing one minute and crying the next.  If you are from the South, you’ll find yourself nodding along with it, and if you aren’t, you’ll hopefully learn a little about what drives a Southern woman.  As Paula says, “Some people call Southern women steel magnolias to show our unfailing survival instinct. Well, if we got dimples of steel, so what. Things have to be right.”

I whipped up this Ham Salad recipe found in Paula’s autobiography, and it turned out to be just right, too.

My Best Ham Salad (Sandwich)

adapted from It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ by Paula Deen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover ham, chopped in a food processor
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • 1/4 cup hot pickle relish, drained
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients until well blended.
  2. Spread on white bread to make a sandwich, or serve with crackers.

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Crooked Smile Tuna Artichoke Melt

Ok, there has got to be a better way to have your mouth numbed at the dentist.  I mean, couldn’t someone invent some kind of trans-gum patch that they could put on while they’re working, and then just take it off at the end and voila, you’re no longer dribbling water down your shirt trying to drink some water?  And it would be much less painful, and that’s the most important thing, right?

Well, maybe being able to eat is important too.  Especially something as good as this Tuna Artichoke Melt.  A tasty twist on the more familiar tuna melt, this recipe adds artichoke hearts to the tuna and is dressed with a mayonnaise-free vinaigrette.  It’s extra good topped with avocado, tomato, and Swiss cheese, and if you’re feeling ambitious you can make your own English Muffins to hold it all.  Yum.

I’m hoping the numbness will be gone by the time I finish making lunch.

 

Tuna Artichoke Melt

from Shortbread

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup jarred artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/4 cup scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 12 oz canned tuna, drained and flaked
  • 4 English muffins, split
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • avocado, tomato slices (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Place muffin halves on a baking sheet and divide the tuna mixture evenly over them. Top each with avocado and tomato if desired, and half of a cheese slice.
  4. Broil until cheese is golden and melted, about 5 minutes.

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No Fakin’ Hot And Spicy Sausage Dip

I have a confession to make.  I used to be a football ‘faker’.  I would feign interest in football games just to be part of the crowd – clap when everyone clapped, stand up when everyone stood, and yell out things I heard others yell out.  My boyfriend was on our college football team, and I had no idea what went on for four years.

I feel a little ashamed now, especially knowing the reason for my lack of interest – it all just seemed way too complicated.  And if I hadn’t learned the rules before college, well it was simply too late.

Since being married to a football fan who is very dedicated to his college team, I have once again found myself attending football games, this time with young kids often in tow.  And they ask me questions . . . about football.  Well, I can’t have the children growing up in ignorance like their mother did.  So I’ve been forced to actually pay attention and figure out what’s going on.  I guess it’ll keep my brain young and all, you know, learning something new.  And my kids won’t have to fake it either.

Now, something I don’t have to fake is cooking up some tasty football snacks.  If you’re in need of a warm and spicy dip for the game, this is what you need to put on the table.  Sausage, cream cheese, spicy tomatoes and hot sauce melt together to make a delicious dip for corn chips, baguette slices, or crackers.  It also tastes just as fabulous with turkey sausage and light cream cheese as it does with the regular stuff.

Trust me, there’s no fakin’ the fabulousness of this dip.

Hot and Spicy Sausage Dip

from Shortbread

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (16 oz) ground sausage, pork or turkey
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
  • 2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, regular or reduced fat
  • hot sauce to taste

Directions

  1. Cook sausage in a large saucepan over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain and return to pan.
  2. Add tomatoes and cream cheese to pan and cook, stirring occasionally until thoroughly blended and heated through.
  3. Stir in hot sauce to you liking.
  4. Serve warm with corn chips, crackers, or baguette slices.

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Muscle Building Homemade Mayo And Cashew Curry Chicken Salad

cashew chicken salad

I was inspired to make my own mayonnaise this weekend.  Let me tell you, it was TOUGH ON THE FOREARM.  You have to whisk, whisk, whisk, the whole time you are S-L-O-W-L-Y adding the oil.  A cup and a half of oil didn’t seem like a lot to whisk at first, but I think it multiplied while I was working!  The kitchen got a little shower of oil when I found out I’m not quite as coordinated with my left hand.  It makes me wonder whether you could make it work in the ol’ Kitchenaid.  I’m trying that next time.

We don’t really use much mayonnaise in my house, actually, I’m the only one who eats it and not that often.  The husband has sworn it off, along with Chinese fast food and pretty much lunch altogether (it’s a lot like this).  I don’t tell him it’s in the pimento cheese.

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World Tour Day Two Hummus Dip

hummus

Day Two of the World Tour:  The Middle East.  Or at least I think so.  It seems that hummus has been around so long, since pre-history even, that its origins aren’t exactly clear.  It is most widely credited to the Middle East, though, so that’s what I’m going with. If you’re interested in a brief history lesson on the subject, check out this site – The Straight Dope: Fighting Ignorance Since 1973 (its taken longer than we thought).

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Furniture City Olive Dip

Olive Dip

Most days I would rather just have a plate full of different appetizers than a main dish.  What I like most about going to parties is getting to do just that, and being able to see what kinds of new things are available.  Just when you think you’ve seen it all, someone brings something like Captain’s Wafers wrapped in bacon and Parmesan cheese, or cream cheese covered with caramel and toffee bits, or chocolate chip cheese ball. Continue reading